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Child Custody
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Temporary & Permanent Child Custody: What's the Difference?

At first glance, the differences between temporary child custody and permanent child custody seem obvious. One is a short-term arrangement, the other is long-lasting. But that can be misleading. In family court, temporary custody rarely means what that name implies. Attorneys in custody cases understand that temporary is almost always, in fact, permanent.

Why Temporary Child Custody Matters

During a legal separation, it is common for the court to award one parent temporary custody of the children until the divorce is finalized. It sounds straightforward: One parent takes legal and physical responsibility for the children on a seemingly finite basis. The other parent has visitation rights. But, in fact, winning temporary custody gives the custodial parent an advantage in eventually winning permanent child custody.

In making permanent child custody decisions, the court considers what is in the best interests of the child. To decide that, the court will look at the facts in the case. Typically, the court will determine a child is best served by remaining in an environment where they are happy, secure and well cared-for.

Winning Permanent Custody

If a parent wins temporary child custody, he or she has the opportunity to show at the final custody hearing that the child is doing well in his or her care. Assuming that is successful, its much more difficult for the other parent to convince the court otherwise. Courts sometimes say permanent child custody isnt influenced by temporary custody. In fact, most courts are hesitant to change a child's environment assuming everything is well in their current one.

Custody Rights and Responsibilities

Its important that the parent who wins temporary custody follow the courts directions about the other parents visitation rights. Doing so shows the court the custodial parent is cooperative and willing to let the other parent be a part of the childs life.

However, if the non-custodial parent is being prevented from exercising his or her visitation rights, its important to keep records of all incidences to eventually influence a change in custody.

Understanding De Facto Custody

If you are seeking custody, you should avoid moving from your home and leaving your children with the other parent. That establishes whats called de facto custody.

De facto custody easily leads to temporary custody, which in turn leads to permanent custody. If the other parent has de facto custody, a temporary custody hearing is usually the only time to challenge the de facto custody before the permanent custody hearing. The court is often reluctant to change child custody if the non-custodial parent waits until the permanent custody hearing to challenge the de facto custody.

Understanding temporary and permanent custody, and the thin line that separates them, is essential if you hope to win custody of your child or children. For more information, talk to a qualified child custody attorney.